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Getting up on gadgets

Learn how to use new Christmas gifts...

Model Ellery Tofte
Model Ellery Tofte of the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre puzzles over digital devices. Photo by Carrie Snyder/The Forum

Learn how to use new Christmas gifts

'Twas the season to get gadgets, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la! But you were lost as soon as you unwrapped it, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!

Still confused about how to use that new electronic gizmo you got for Christmas? Here's a little help:



A smartphone is "a phone that's going to simplify your life," says Nate Visconti, data sales consultant for Verizon Wireless.

So why does the thing look so much more complicated than your old cell phone? Well, that's partly because it does a lot more. On these gadgets, you can keep your appointments, send e-mail, enter your contacts, keep a to-do list and more. Here are some tips for getting ready:

  • Smartphones are really "minicomputers," Visconti says. That being the case, think of the device as a computer with a phone function instead of a souped-up phone. So, like a computer, a smartphone is typically going to base the interface on icons. Each icon is a little picture that represents a program or function of the device. Just select the function that you want to do.
  • Chad Ertelt, owner of Flickertail Wireless, suggests a couple of measures to protect the pricey, little gems. Invest in some sort of protective covering, and, if it has a touch screen, buy some screen protectors.
  • Try this little timesaver: Smartphones typically have a camera function. Snap a picture of where you park at the mall so you can find your car.
  • Visconti says he enters the information from his rewards membership cards (for hotels, car rentals, etc.) into his phone. That way he doesn't have to lug around a stack of cards.
  • They don't call 'em smart for nothin'. Many phones can give turn-by-turn directions if you're lost.

Digital camera

So you're still recovering from the shame of opening your brand new (and first) digital camera Christmas morning and asking, "Great! Where can I get digital film?"

Don't worry. There's still hope for you. (OK, just to be safe: No, digital cameras don't use film).

  • You don't have to know what all the buttons and options on the camera do. Kevin Taylor, manager of Ritz Camera at West Acres Shopping Center, often recommends just letting the camera "make the decisions" for you by choosing the auto mode.
  • Don't expect the camera to do what it can't, says Taylor. The flash is only going to be good for up to about 15 feet. So in low light, that's about your distance limit.
  • Taylor recommends shooting several shots of the same thing. With a digital, it doesn't cost to shoot more.
  • Use good composition principles. Fill the frame with the subject. Get on the same level as your subject. As a rule, position your subject near one of the four corners of the camera's viewfinder.
  • Get the subject in even lighting. Harsh, direct sunlight can be a photo wrecker. And that beautiful bay window in the background will turn the people in the foreground into silhouettes.

Bluetooth headset

Bluetooth headsets have nothing to do with teeth or the color blue. Bluetooth is a way that devices can communicate wirelessly. A Bluetooth headset goes in one or both of your ears and also has a mic to pick up your voice. It allows you to use your cell phone without actually having the phone in your hands.


Here's a simplified, typical setup process: You'll need to put the headset in pairing mode. That means it's looking to connect with the phone, and there will be instructions with the device on how to do so. Then you'll need to have the phone connect to the headset. On a Palm Centro phone, for example, you select the Bluetooth icon, which opens a screen that lets you turn on Bluetooth communication and pair up with a headset. Any code that the phone asks for should be provided in the headset documentation.

Some of the newer phones are equipped with auto-pairing, which simplifies the process.


Hey, stop treating that new iPod like an eight-track player. Sure, this popular device can play music, but it can do a lot more.

  • Why just listen when you can play? You can get games such as Uno, Monopoly, Scrabble, Mini Golf and much more for your iPod. You'll be a gamer in no time. Games can be purchased through iTunes.
  • The kids waste a lot of time on the iPod. But you, Mr. Adult, know that it can also be useful. You can crack open an audio book on a trip. In fact, you can even get audio books designed to teach you a foreign language. Just download them through iTunes.
  • You can load pictures of the grandkids on your iPod so you can show them off to all the ladies down at the beauty shop. You can even set up a slide show. Hey, you get to show off to your friends, and the grandkids will think you're the hippest grandparent ever. Life is good.
  • Take the TV with you. You can download episodes of your favorite shows and watch them on the go. And you can rent or buy movies to play on your iPod. What's more, some DVDs now come with an iTunes copy that you can put right on your iPod.
  • Check out the "extras" menu. You may be surprised at the cool stuff you find. For example, the iPod nano I've been testing has calendar and alarm functions, can read text files and can keep up with your contacts. It's even got a stopwatch in case you'd like to track how much time you're wasting playing on your iPod.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 241-5734

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